Hope is the Thing with Feathers: A Story of Hope and Loss
Guest Post: Written by Amy Leblanc
October is Infant Loss Awareness Month.
While all the different days and celebrations for everything in our lives sometimes drive me crazy, some of the days are definitely worth celebrating and remembering.
Infant Loss Awareness Month definitely deserves its own month, and even that is not enough. While this is not something I can personally talk to you about, I have several friends who have suffered greatly, from loss of infants to multiple miscarriages.
It is heartbreaking. I could not possibly pretend to understand. It is one of those things that until it happens to you personally, and while I wish that upon no one, then you will never fully understand.
The Grim Statistics:
Far too many people, even in our culture of “modern” health and technology, are aware of infant loss.
According to the CDC, about 24,000 babies are still born in the U.S. each year. That is 1 in 100 pregnancies!
For women who know their pregnant, about 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage.https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/miscarriage.aspx
Chances are, you or somebody you love has been through an infant loss.
This is a hard and heartbreaking topic for many. One that is not talked about enough, in my opinion.
People callously brush somebody’s infant loss off saying simply horrid things such as, “It’s okay, After all, you can have other children.” As if you could ever replace a child. Honestly, it blows my mind the insensitive things people say sometimes.
Brushing off someone’s loss at any time during pregnancy or after birth is like dousing their wounds with alcohol. If you have every cleaned a wound with alcohol or even washed your hands with hand sanitizer when you have a paper cut, then you know it burns!
What it’s like to be pregnant:
Sometimes, I think people forget or don’t know what it is really like to be pregnant, so they are unaware of how an infant loss may affect people.
Let me elaborate for you. From the moment you find out you are pregnant, something in you changes. You become not a different person, just a newer, more self-aware person. You begin to understand the Heavenly Father’s love a little more and why he chose the word “Father” to describe himself.
From the moment you become pregnant, most women instinctively start taking better care of themselves and they instantly are aware that their life is about so much more.
There is also a great fear and trepidation, as with all things new. There are tons of books on pregnancy and parenting, some of which are great resources, but none of which will fully prepare you for this stage in your life.
Even more, when you see and hear the first heartbeat, or you feel the first movement inside of you, there is nothing that can compare. It is, in a sense, magical, awe inspiring, and most definitely always miraculous.
You carry a child inside your body, but even more profound is that you carry a child inside your heart and soul, and you know you will never be the same.
So when that child is lost, then a part of you is lost. Time may make the pain more bearable, but there will always, always be a part of you that is gone.
So let’s stop brushing off infant loss, miscarriage, or any loss for that matter, and start sharing in love. For you are not alone.
Let me introduce you to my friend, Amy and let you read her story.
You will be saddened and grieve her loss with her, but lifted up as you find some kinship in your loss from her sharing.
Amy wrote this post in 2016 during the catastrophic flooding in Louisiana.
She had graciously shared her story for Infant Loss Awareness Month in hopes of lifting others up in their remembrance and grief.
Hope is the Thing with Feathers
This weekend, I sat in my cool, dry comfortable living room and watched on my phone through multiple Facebook posts as friends, family, and many complete strangers lost every physical item they owned. Houses were ruined, vehicles were flooded, beloved pets were lost. People were stranded in their cars for over 24 hrs.
I was born and raised in Louisiana and have stayed to raise my family here. It felt like déjà vu as my beloved North Louisiana endured extreme flooding this spring, and now, four months later, South Louisiana is being hit even harder.
My heart is heavy. I’m depressed and so so sad. The loss my state has seen in the past six months is unbelievable. Right now, people are in a state of shock and survival, but soon, as the waters begin to recede, the loss will set in. Loss of physical things, loss of the comfort of home, loss of memories as pictures and videos will be unsalvageable.
This morning I asked my kids to pray for their aunt, my sister, and her family and her in-laws. My son told me that he didn’t know her in-laws so he was going to leave that up to the adults. But then he thought about it a minute and said that he guessed he could pray for them too.
When we’re young, we don’t think much about loss.
We imagine that we grow up, marry a wonderful person, have a few kids, live in a fancy house and stay that way indefinitely. A tapestry knit together by perfect thread to create an unchanging picture.
Who knew that you never actually feel like you’ve arrived at that place and that things are constantly changing? That the threads, if you ever get something woven together, can just as easily unravel?
Many times our lives are shaped, sometimes defined, by one or several major losses.
Divorce, death of a parent, death of a child, a fire, a flood, major illness, infertility, addiction, and disability are all things that have affected many of us.
I struggled with infertility for several years before we became pregnant with twins. Twins I thought! This is the reward for all my prayers and heartache. I prayed for the safety of these little people on my way to work. I prayed prayers of thanksgiving and love before I went to bed. Our hope for our family had been restored. We found out we were having a boy and a girl. Exactly what I was hoping for. We picked out names and furniture. I saw specialty doctors and got an ultrasound at every visit.
Then one night just about 22 weeks along, I woke up with weird pains and told Jay to take me to the ER. When we got there, I was having contractions every five minutes. They put me on medicine to try to stop the contractions and hooked me up to the monitors. When the contractions had only slowed down a little, they rushed me to the nearest NICU hospital by ambulance.
There, they gave me more medicine and practically had me laying upside down on the hospital bed. My water had not broken and they kept me in this state for a week and half.
About ten days in, the pain of contractions was so bad, they gave me an epidural. This helped with the pain and the stress on my body, but they warned me it couldn’t go on indefinitely. When this epidural wore off, the pain once again became incredibly unbearable and they gave me another epidural. This one, though, wore off in a matter of hours and I awoke again in the middle of the night in extreme pain, with pure dread that this would go on forever.
We called my doctor in and decided to take the babies by C-section. This would give them the greatest chance of survival, although I would forever have to have a C-section after, due to the way they would have to cut to get to the babies.
When they took the babies, I remember not hearing them cry and one of the attendees saying it was the smallest baby he had ever seen. They each only lived a few hours.
As women, we tend to blame ourselves for many things. If only we could be stronger, skinnier, smarter, braver, our lives, and those around us, would be better.
I still have thoughts, that if I had been stronger, if I could have endured longer, I might have my babies today.
But the thing is, even if it’s true, it’s not what happened. The reality is that my twins are buried in a cemetery next to their great grandparents. But that’s not the whole reality.
The other part is that while their bodies may be there, their souls are in heaven, waiting to meet the rest of their family one day. This is the hope that I have through Jesus Christ. Hope is the antidote to loss. Through our grief, Jeremiah 29:11 carried me through:
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a HOPE and a FUTURE.”
When you’re going through a tragic loss, whether it’s similar to my story or the flood victims, you’re just trying to make it through the day, maybe the hour. This verse reminds me that God wants the best for us. He sees the whole story and His will is for us to have a prosperous future.
So grieve, grieve hard for things you have lost. Acknowledge your loss and how it has affected you and will continue to affect you. But through it all, don’t forget to also hope.
Emily Dickinson wrote,
Hope is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops- at all-
Hope for a better future, hope for comfort and healing, and remember you are not alone. You are the child of a most loving Father; His arms are around you and He loves you and has set up communities to help you on this earth.
Your family and your church family are full of people who want to help you, emotionally and physically. In times of great need, don’t hesitate to reach out to those who can help you, and once you have made it to the other side of this tragedy, try to give back by helping others around you.
I have known this friend my entire life. We have been friends from as far back as I can remember. When she found out she was pregnant, I remember being so excited! She had been trying for so long!
I remember the day she lost her babies. I don’t remember the exact day or how I even found out. We did not live in the same town at the time and while still good friends, we did not converse every day. But I remember that day with anticipation, hope and dread. Upon hearing the heartbreaking news, I was filled with great grief and sadness.
Yet, I felt powerless. The only thing I could do was pray and send flowers, which seemed meaningless and trivial at the time.
Of course prayer is never powerless, even if we don’t see the results, and the smallest of gestures can make the biggest difference.
If you know somebodoy going through a loss or you are suffering a great loss, don’t negate the power of prayer or the power a kind gesture.
If you need someone to pray for you, contact me HERE.
And if you found this story encouraging, please share. You never know who might need it.
Thanks for reading as always. Sharing is caring!
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